Finance director: Chris Woodhouse

To select the candidate that had demonstrated the necessary merits to make Finance Director of the Year, the judges were looking for evidence of substantial financial achievement, such as particular contribution to the creation of shareholder value, improvements in efficiency gains and high quality service.

The judges also looked for the finance chief who had displayed the qualities of enterprise, integrity, imagination and leadership.

And with the particular difficulties businesses have been experiencing in the past year, because of various accounting scandals and the downturn in the economy, these skills had to be demonstrated more than ever.

Joint winner was Chris Woodhouse, finance director of the successful DIY store Homebase.

Since it was acquired from J. Sainsbury in a management buyout in March of last year, Homebase has increased like-for-like sales by 11.6%, seen profits soar by 169% and reduced net debt by £219m.

And FD Woodhouse had a lead role in transforming the Homebase business from a subsidiary to an independent limited company.

The judges agreed that Woodhouse had a rare combination of sound technical skills and commercial business acumen that allowed him to play a pivotal general management role in the regeneration of the Homebase brand.

One judge said his ‘fantastically detailed entry showed the finance director has achieved long-lasting and sustained shareholder value’.

Woodhouse also displayed the communication skills that are vital these days in running a successful business.

As the company admits, things have not exactly been rosy all the time since the management buyout. But it states that the finance chief had been a pillar in keeping the business going when things were tough.

The entry says: ‘Since the buyout of Homebase, particularly during the more difficult phases of slimming down the central and support functions, Woodhouse, alongside the chief executive, took a lead role in communicating with all employees in the business.’

According to Homebase, Woodhouse took the step of facing up to problems, sometimes literally, a quality that is particularly crucial in times of a downturn.

The communication, the company says ‘was done face-to-face through mass meetings and store management conferences. Throughout there have been three consistent themes, strategy updates, with a view of keeping the end goals in clear focus, feedback on financial performance and straightforward, if sometimes brutal, question and answer sessions’.

As a result of his strategy and honest and open communication, the company says its culture has begun to change and management is now more approachable, while employees understand better where the company is going and how it is performing.

Other shortlisted candidate:

  • Jim Pettigrew, ICAP

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